Beyond the Taj

Bike your way to the 14th-century ruins of Hampi… Climb 350 steps to the 30 magnificent rock-cut caves of Ajanta … Rejuvenate in the ‘Shikara’ on the Alleppey Backwaters … There are a plethora of things to do and experience during your next vacation in India, beyond your Taj Mahal visit, and believe me, these ‘other’ sites are as breathtaking as the ‘Taj’. In this article, I will briefly introduce you to some of my favorite holiday destinations in India. Architectural and scenic beauty, combined with state-of-the-art tourism infrastructures, these destinations will revivify your five senses. So, pack your bags and let’s go!

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Remember the Jackie Chan movie “The Myth”? Shot in Hampi, even the veteran cinematographer could not do justice to the beauty of Hampi that you will perceive when you are on-site. The historical ruins of the Vijaynagar Empire, in the state of Karnataka, is unparalleled in charm and eminence. An overnight train from Bangalore city will take you to your destination which is studded with affordable and luxury lodging facilities. Echoing the quote by Edith Wharton, “One of the great things about travel is you find out how many good, kind people there are”, at Hampi, the local inhabitants will further amplify your delights. One of the safest places in the country for tourists, Hampi keeps mesmerizing me more and more with every visit. Alongside the ruins, you will find the towering Virupaksha Temple. My personal favorite monument is the Vittala Temple with its ‘musical pillars’. Yes, you heard it right! The 56 musical pillars, also known as the SaReGaMa pillars, produce musical tones when struck by hand. The Divine mysteries of this UNESCO World Heritage Site continue to enthrall me. It is said that the black scorpions of the Vittala Temple never sting the devotees. While you unravel such enigma, don’t forget the trek to the Hemakuta Hill for that picturesque sunset.

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Carved out in the mountains of Western India, the Ajanta Caves will revitalize your mind, body, and soul. Built between 200 B.C and 500 A.D., the Ajanta Caves are a repertoire of the artistic brilliance of the humankind. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a collection of Buddhist paintings, murals, sculptures, and rock-cut Temples. It is believed that several Buddhist Monks spent their time at the Ajanta caves, during the monsoons, when were forbidden from traveling. During this time, the Monks concocted an abundance of creative masterpieces within the realms of the Ajanta Caves. Located 105 km from Aurangabad, tourists can expect comfortable commuting to and from the site. Aurangabad is a sprawling city with almost all tourist amenities. 

The Ellora caves are located about 30 km towards the west of Aurangabad. Unlike Ajanta caves, these caves date between 5th and 11th century A.D. In addition to Buddhist monasteries, Ellora caves are home to Hindu and Jain temples. I still remember my Grandmother talking about her fond memories of the pillars that rendered sounds of “Tabla”, an Indian musical instrument, when struct by hand. The Kailasa Temple is regarded as the greatest monolithic structure in the world. The virtuosity, elegance, and scale exemplify the zenith of skills of those ancient times. Be prepared to be spell-bound.

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I will let only the photographs do the talking for the splendid Alleppey Backwaters.

So, want to experience it all firsthand? I shall be happy to lead a trek to these sites during the Winter Break 2020. Let’s embark on a journey like no other!

The Crypto Call Option

I can remember the first time I heard about Bitcoin, I was sitting in a shared office with a co-worker back in 2013 when he described a new digital currency that was gaining some notoriety.  I did some quick research and wrote it off as a passing fad that was fueled by cyber criminals and tech speculators.   I did not think much about it again until the Fall of 2017 when its soaring price garnered headlines across the business world.  I recognized the bubble and, since I did not want to deal with a crypto exchange, I bought some shares of Greyscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), whose price is correlated to the price of Bitcoin.  I watched its value soar until it hit its high of $19,783.06 on December 17, 2017, then sold my shares as my shares’ price plummeted.  At that point, I took my profits and dismissed Bitcoin.

 

However, this year I began to take notice of it again.  I watched the price climb from the mid-$3,000s in January to $8,000 in May.  This performance got my attention and led me to do some deeper research on Bitcoin.  What struck me was its resiliency.  Bitcoin has gone through two bubbles, from 2013-2014, when its price rose from $13 to $1,163, before declining to $152 in early 2015.  Then again in the aforementioned 2017 boom and crash.  Although its price is volatile, there is clearly underlying value in this asset because it has been able to rebound following these two crashes.  After doing my research, I concluded that buying Bitcoin is, essentially, a call.  In the coming decade I think one Bitcoin will either be worth well over $100,000, or nothing depending on a number of factors.

In doing my research I found that people fell into two camps: crypto evangelists and crypto skeptics, with few in the middle.  I put myself in the rare third category as a crypto realist.  I recognize both the potential and the risks of Bitcoin and other crypto assets such as Ripple and Litecoin.  The following is a succinct explanation of my line of thinking on both angles:

Why Bitcoin could be worth more than $100,000

I draw from both my personal experience traveling around the world and a study of Bitcoin’s performance over the past decade to see its potential to exceed $100,000.  Although most in the United States do not experience it, paying for goods and services is challenging in many areas in the world.  Typically, people use cash and I was surprised to see that many vendors do not have reliable credit card payment systems.  I remember travelling to Zimbabwe in 2017 when many ATMs had simply run out of money.  It was thus next to impossible to buy anything.  However, I noticed that many of the people I interacted with had smartphones.  A global, digital currency that can be used for direct, peer-to-peer payment would solve the banking issue many experience.  Thus, global adoption could skyrocket, driving up Bitcoin and other crypto asset’s prices.

From a data-driven standpoint, a conversation with Dan Morehead, CEO of Pantera Capital, on the Unchained podcast drew my attention to Bitcoin’s incredible growth potential.  He highlighted the fact that, looking at Bitcoin’s price on a logarithmic scale, it has grown at a 235% CAGR.  Using this growth rate, it will only take a couple of years for one Bitcoin to be worth more than $300,000.  Although this number seems crazy, Morehead highlights the fact that he first thought Bitcoin would be worth more than $5,000 when it was selling for $100, and no one thought this would be possible.  As we have seen Bitcoin cross the $1, $100, $1,000, and $10,000 thresholds, doubters have seen each next level as unattainable.  So, why should Bitcoin not reach the $100,000 mark in a few years?

Why Bitcoin could be worth $0

It seems Bitcoin’s price is largely driven by speculation on its viability as a global payment system.  I personally do not view my cryptocurrency as anything I would spend, but rather as an asset I am holding.  Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency’s volatility makes its adoption as a currency difficult.  Right now, people either keep their cryptocurrency stored on hard drives or in crypto exchanges such as Coinbase.  Unless it becomes widely used as currency, people will rely on exchanges to convert their crypto assets into government backed currency.  My thought is that, should cryptocurrency threaten big banks’ business in financial transactions, the banks will work to maintain their business model.  The easiest way it seems to accomplish this end is to block withdrawal from crypto trading platforms to an individual’s bank account.  If this is the case, the value of crypto will plummet unless it has already become a globally accepted currency that has largely replaced government backed currency, which is a highly speculative proposition.

So, do I think you should invest in cryptocurrency? Yes, absolutely.  It seems that the asset has incredible growth potential, resiliency, and has proven skeptics wrong time and time again.  How much do I recommend you invest?  Only as much as you are ok to lose.

On-demand Sports

Wharton people are busy people. When we look at our double and triple booked calendars, with all those EIS, networking dinners, and small group dinners, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Often, the first things that go are the “lower priority” ones: sports and recreation. Activities that are essential for our mental and physical health.

Playing regular sports as an adult can be mentally effortless and exhilarating. Of those adults who play sports, more than half reported in a Harvard study that it has reduced their stress (58%), improved their mental health (54%), or improved their physical health (51%).

A Harvard study found that three in four adults played sports when they were younger, but only one in four still play. Another research shows that around the age of 26, an average adult stops playing most active sports.

Alas, when you finally have breathing room, you are so exhausted that you default to going to Pottruck, or if you are lucky, the gym in your building. You can barely remember the excitement during Club Pub: when you told yourself you would engage in stretch experiences and signed up for three sport clubs. Three months in and that fancy tennis racket that you were going to “use every weekend” has been accumulating dust. But what if you could play your favorite sport on demand? What if when suddenly that networking dinner or that team meeting gets cancelled, you felt an itch to play your sport?

Nirupam Anand WG’20 & I re-imagined adult sports at Seamless Sports. We match people with similar sports interests, playing levels, availability, and location to create an on-demand sports experience. You simply choose your location and sport, and when you are free. We work in the background to find you other players and book a facility (e.g. a tennis court) near you.

And who knows, maybe you will have your stretch experience after all.

Wharton Christian Fellowship: Faith & Fun on Campus

The Wharton Christian Fellowship (“WCF”) seems to have taken on new life this semester. WCF is about living your faith and having fun while you’re at it. Within just a few months, a member of WCF spoke at a Storytellers Slam, the group hosted several small group dinners and attended a Poets in Autumn event when the famous spoken-word performance group was live in Philly. We have weekly Bible studies, and we have joint Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners planned with the Penn Christian Fellowship. WCF had a strong start this semester, but truthfully, the best is still yet to come.

For our kick-off event of the year, the WCF hosted a “First Supper” on the 21st floor of 1919 Market Street. Close to 30 first and second-year students attended. It was a great time of food and fellowship as returning and new members had the opportunity to introduce themselves and get acquainted. “I’ve never seen this many people at WCF event before,” said a returning second-year student.

Riding the momentum from the kick-off event, the WCF headed to R2L for restaurant week and went to a Poets in Autumn show afterward. Comedians at the show joked about the realities of being a single Christian and made light of the more comical sides of being human and living for God. WCF members brought partners, and shared laughs that I’m sure that all of us will remember for the foreseeable future.

WCF isn’t strictly internally focused. We actively seek opportunities to connect with the Wharton community. As a Co-President of WCF, it was a huge honor to speak at a Storyteller’s Slam in September. I shared my testimony about what my life was like before I committed to a personal relationship with Jesus. It was a stretch experience that allowed me to share parts of my story and to discuss how I navigate living out my faith at Wharton. (For everyone who supported me prior, during, and after that event, I truly thank you.)

One of the best nights for WCF this semester was a movie night when we watched The Case for Christ. We had snacks galore and enjoyed the film about former atheist Lee Strobel’s eventful conversion to Christianity. We cracked jokes about the 80s references throughout the film. Most of us stayed after the movie, hung out and got to know one another. No one discussed careers, recruiting, or what they did before Wharton. In fact, at the end of the evening, someone started beatboxing, and we randomly started to sing our favorite worship songs. We saw the potential and we’re hosting an acapella Worship Night in December. (Please feel free to join us if you can!)

Creating a community for members is an unquestionably important aspect of WCF. We’re a club that truly exists for everyone who is not yet a member. We have weekly Bible Studies and we’ve recently launched a weekly prayer night. Join us on GroupMe at Wharton Christian Fellowship, or you can join our Slack channel #christianclub. Our members and their partners are unique, and everyone has something valuable to add to the fellowship. You’re sure to find someone like you, or a need for someone like you, if you come out.

The ‘Power’ to Change the World

That alarm which wakes you up in the morning, annoying yet indispensable for your schedule … That microwave which warms your food, so that you can grab a quick bite before rushing to work or school … That automobile that safely transports you to work/school, unless you choose to walk … Do you realize how dependent you are on technology today? This was not the case always!

I remember my first overseas student exchange program to Spain, in 2009, and I remember traveling across the country, navigating with the help of just paper maps. Smartphone did not seem essential to me ten years ago, but now I can’t think of surviving a day without one! The more you think about the impact of technology on your life, the more you will realize how it has been guiding the evolution of mankind. Don’t you want to contribute to this driver of the future of the entire planet, and beyond?

How exciting it would be to introduce a gadget that will change the way people plan their day. I thought for months what may that gadget be? I did a lot of research, mostly while commuting and mostly on my phone, and my phone was always low on charge. I forgot to carry my battery backup, almost every single day. My charger hardly got plugged out of the socket above my desk. I almost never used the public charging stations because I was always on-the-run, and I am sure that I am not the only one! Result? Often found myself stuck in the middle of nowhere, without a functional mobile phone. Sounds familiar?

I remember that one day, back in 2016, I was visiting a prospective client at a very remote location. I had taken a cab to the meeting; however, on the way back, I could not find any. Just when I wanted to use the Uber app, I was shocked to see that my phone had run out of charge. A group of strange men stared at me as I walked past them, without even knowing if I was moving in the direction of the nearest bus stop. It was scorching, 91°F, and I felt helpless and scared. I was vehemently shaking my phone, as if the motion would induce some charge. Wait, what if it could? What if I had something with me which I could just shake to generate power? What if I could harvest energy from motion and use it to charge my phone? Suddenly, as if it was a sign from the Universe (that I was on the right track), I saw something yellow in the far end of the seemingly endless lane. I was never happier to see such a dilapidated yellow Taxi that stopped and asked me where I wanted to go. Sitting in the car, all I could think about was the device that would generate charge from motion. Thus, started my research on Personal Energy Generator (PEG) technology and brainstorming on how to integrate this technology with things that people will not forget to carry with themselves.

My Wharton journey started with a blast. Wharton being my career switch to Finance, I dived into ‘Finance’ right at the start! The hectic Investment Banking recruiting kicked in after the mid-sems. However, I never forgot one other thing that I wanted to work on during my Wharton journey, something that has the potential to change lives. I named this venture ‘PowerMove’ and it is now a part of the Venture Initiation Program – Philadelphia (VIP-C).

The idea behind PowerMove is to leverage PEG technology in generating power for the gadgets that we move around with. Initially I conceived it as a wristwatch or fitness tracker, enabled with PEG, generating power from hand movements. This device shall double as a portable cell phone power bank; a ‘Green’ product that grants one the ‘Power’ to be in control of one’s life, the ‘Power’ to make a statement, and the ‘Power’ to save the planet in every move. Unlike the competing products such as, the mobile cases which have inbuilt battery backup, PowerMove shall the generate power-on-the-go and clean energy. PowerMove will generate power anytime, anywhere; you just need to ‘move’. The main challenge is the bulkiness of PEG technology that will be used, and in fact, this is a challenge for all mobile battery backup devices.

With the VIP-C Award, I have access to shared workspace, elaborate database, group advising, monthly workshops, and more, and currently I am researching how I can reduce the size of the PEG and integrate it with a wristwatch/fitness tracker so that it is always on the wrist in times of need. VIP-C mentors have been really supportive and encouraging. It is obvious that this technology will become more compact with time; in fact, around the year 2017, the Vanderbilt University had prototyped a jacket with ultrathin energy harvesting device that generates energy even from slow human motions and can be used to charge phones. The future looks optimistic and next semester onward, I would love to know what our Penn Engineers think about it.

My focus now is to integrate PEG technology with backpacks, before the evolution of the PEG technology into miniature, yet efficient, forms that are suitable for watches. People like me, who are always carrying backpacks, can wield the benefits of this amazing renewable energy technology immediately. I am looking forward to work with anyone who has the passion for or the experience in the energy sector, and/or finds the idea interesting. If we want our future generations to live healthy and long lives, we have no other option but to resort to clean energy in all micro-level and macro-level aspects. This is the time to take control, this is the time to change our destiny. Let’s ‘move’ towards a sustainable future, and change the world!

 

 

 

 

On Respect for Elders

Wharton is an eclectic group of individuals. From investment analysts with two years of work experience on the trading floor to twenty-year military Veterans, we’re all at different stages and points in our careers. However, with the onset of the A.I./Big Data/exponentially fast-changing technological trends (call it whatever you want), I think many of us are prioritizing cutting-edge skill acquisition over tried and true experience-based knowledge.

I recently had a discussion with a professor about how different the classroom is today from years past. The fact that there is now competition between veteran PhD’s who have toiled for years in their subjects and computer screens displaying the latest Bloomberg article or python coding guide is more evidence of this issue. With such a complex modern economy, it almost feels like you’re behind if you can’t explain the latest time management software to your learning team. What this information overload is really doing is deprioritizing the traditional way of asking a professor for advice in search of quicker but not always better learning methods.

My argument is that listening to the humans who have accumulated years of knowledge and are tasked with educating us is a better use of time than spending hours on some website trying to discover how to code the front-page of that wine-tasting startup you had an idea for. My fear is that professor-student interactions will decrease and the classroom will become ever more transactional.

One solution to this issue is to begin by thanking our elders, showing respect toward those that have paved the way before us. Recently, I sent a thank-you to a speaker who came to talk to us. His response shocked me when he said that after years of coming to talk, he never once had a student write him a thank you email. Clapping at the conclusion of a course or taking a professor to lunch isn’t really enough to show appreciation for the time they’ve taken to stand up in front of the room and try to impart some wisdom on us. Don’t get me wrong, there are bad courses and occasionally professors who don’t try their hardest, but a level of gratitude for those who have imparted wisdom should be warranted. As our generation becomes the “break it down to build it up” generation of disruption, one thing that shouldn’t be replaced is our traditional values of gratitude toward those that are older.

 

 

My Journey to Belonging at Wharton

Note: I am writing this article to share my journey to belonging and reflect on the evolution of my Wharton experience. I hope that it will resonate with 1Ys, who might feel alone in their experience.

“Business school was the best time of my life!” Almost every MBA alumnus is notorious for uttering these words about their experience. To be honest, I will probably be one of them after I graduate. However, during this time last year, I had officially given up all hopes for having “the best time of my life” at Wharton.

When I started at Wharton last year, it had been over half a decade since I was a student. And boy was it obvious when Pre-term began. I remember walking into the welcome reception on the first day, seeing thousands of new faces, and making an immediate U-turn out. I figured it was just the first day jitters and I would bounce back quickly. The next week, I was so excited to be invited to my first Wharton party. But when I got there, I felt so out of place amidst the hundreds of strangers, beer pong tables, and the small talk. I spent less than ten minutes before quietly Irish exiting.

I just did not get it. Everyone seemed to be having an amazing time making new friends at these big events. I, on the other hand, could not move past the tiring trifecta of questions (if you must know, I’m from San Francisco, I worked at Lyft, and I plan to get into nutritional wellness/food). For the first couple weeks, I left every social event feeling overwhelmed by the number of conversations I had and underwhelmed by the depth of these conversations. To add a cherry on top, I do not particularly enjoy drinking or going out, which seemed blasphemous at that time.

“Let classes begin, I’m sure things will settle down,” I convinced myself. But things did not get better when classes started. My cohort mates would bond over White Party stories and hockey practice while I awkwardly tried to contribute something to the conversation. I would quietly sit by myself at MBA cafe after class, pretending to read for my next class while I watched my classmates greet and catch up with each other with so much joy and kinship. It had been less than a month since classes started, but they all seemed to have found their crew and felt immediately at home.

My anxiety reached its peak when everyone started making Thanksgiving vacation plans. Everyone around me was planning epic adventures around the world, while I was still struggling to make friends. One day, I mustered up the courage to ask a friendly cohort mate what he was planning on doing for Thanksgiving. “Oh, me and my best friends are going to South America. I can’t wait!” he said casually. My heart immediately sank. BEST FRIENDS?! How did he manage to make best friends within a few months?! He and I started on the same path, and yet our experiences had diverged so quickly. Was my disdain for parties and large social events a death sentence?

I came home that night and thought to myself, “I made a major mistake. The people in business school are too superficial for me. I cannot have fun in business school with all the parties and socialization. I add no value to Wharton and Wharton adds no value to me.” I called up my mentor and proclaimed that I had made a mistake and I seriously considered quitting. After patiently listening to me rant, my mentor asked me a simple question: “When was the last time you were in a completely new environment, Anisha?” It had been almost a decade when I last moved to a new city to start my undergraduate degree. “How did you feel in those first few months?” “Horrible!,” I exclaimed. I didn’t know anyone, I missed my family terribly, and I wanted to go back to the comfort of familiar surroundings. “And how did you feel when you graduated after 4 years?” It was one of the best experiences of my life where I made lifelong friends and memories, I recollected.

So what had changed in those years? It was patience, trial and error, and intentionality behind relationships. Somehow, I had forgotten my difficult path to belonging and friendships in the past. I only remembered the end result, which is often beautiful and meaningful, and was frustrated that I was not able to immediately replicate it at Wharton. Of course, the constant positive dialogue among Wharton students didn’t help. Although well-intentioned, I kept hearing how amazing and fun everything was at Wharton. Not many talked about the hard parts of adjusting to Wharton. It made me feel self-conscious and doubt my own ability to belong.

After this realization, I accepted that it is perfectly normal to not hit the ground running when you make a cross-country move and change almost everything in your life. I also realized that I needed to carve my own path to belonging at Wharton, even if it meant doing things in a nontraditional, Anisha way. So, I doubled down on forming meaningful relationships the way that I felt most comfortable: one-on-one’s. Every day, I made it a point to have at least one coffee chat or lunch or walk with a classmate. Whether it is someone I had just met once at an event or a learning teammate that I wanted to know outside of MGEC problem sets, it was all about moving past the small talk. I initiated every chat and followed up. I began to uncover an unexpected, refreshing depth of complexity among people that I had cast off as shallow a few weeks ago. Soon enough, these one-on-ones eventually turned into group hangouts, such as game nights or dinner at my place. As an amateur cook, I love to experiment with cooking and these friends served as excellent guinea pigs. To this date, I bring together 5-6 people at my apartment every weekend for a meal or casual hangout.

These hangouts gave me the confidence to put myself out there and meet more people. So when it came to Thanksgiving, I boldly invited myself to that same South American trek that my cohort mate mentioned. In fact, I invited myself to a smaller follow-on trek to Atacama with three strangers that I had not met. I was committed to being uncomfortable. I was ok with not having a wonderful time immediately. That Thanksgiving trip turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I’ve had at Wharton. I never expected to have such an authentic and adventure-filled Thanksgiving in the middle of the Chilean salt flats with strangers who quickly became dear friends.

Did I return from Thanksgiving with best friends and a crew? Not at all. Am I now the most “popular” person that greets everyone at MBA cafe? Not even close. But, I did return with a strong appreciation for what Wharton can offer. As I began to invest more into the community, I got twice as much back. It was a gradual process to feel comfortable at Wharton, meet other like-minded people who enjoy small group settings, and are committed to authentic conversations. In fact, I would say that I only began feeling at home in January because meaningful relationships take time to build. And it is acceptable to have a bumpy road to this end state!

Now, as I am swiftly wrapping up my last year, I can’t help but be proud of my Wharton experience. The beauty of Wharton, from its size and community, is that there is something for everyone; you just have to make it happen and find your own path. We all worked so incredibly hard to get here, so let’s take full advantage of this opportunity. It might be difficult and awkward to forge your own Wharton experience, but that is perfectly normal.

To this date, I don’t have one single crew of best friends I always hang out with, I have not been to 99% of the big parties, and I took over 4 months to really feel like I belonged. But if anyone asks me about Wharton now, I proudly say,“I am having the best time of my life and I earned it!”

 

A Vietnamese Family’s Escape: “Eat ‘til you’re full”

From the perspective of my mom, Huỳnh Lan Phương

My mom served every meal saying, “ăn cho no.” Eat ‘til you’re full. Our family always had eaten until we were full until 1975.

I was 16 when the Việt Cộng declared victory and an end to the Vietnam War. But for my family, and countless others, the end seemed far from sight. My father died a few years ago, so it was up to my widowed mother to steer me and her three other children through the war’s aftermath. This time was not kind to most. Under the thumb of the Việt Cộng, our family business was shut down. Food was scarce. “Ăn cho no” (eat ‘til you’re full) became foreign words to us and I could see the heartbreak in my mom’s eyes. Banks refused any withdrawals and any attempt would be taxed at 100%. With what little we had, we fled south to my family’s hometown, Bến Tre, in 1977.

Life under the Việt Cộng was getting harder. In 1979, I met Khánh at school and we started dating. Four months into our relationship, Khánh was adamant that we flee to a safer country. Hundreds of thousands of southern Vietnamese were detained and tortured in re-education camps. Many more were forcibly relocated to wastelands. One day, the Việt Cộng barged into our home, took our valuables, and left us shaking in fear. We knew we’d never feel safe in Vietnam. We arranged twice for local fishermen to smuggle us out of the country in the dead of night. We were cheated twice. We lost 4 gold bars, an equivalent to 3 years of savings. Escaping required more. We sold everything we had left and ate just enough to live

Undeterred, Khánh set off to build his own boat, picking up work as an understudy at a fishing company. Within 6months 

he crafted a boat large enough for 30. Not just for our large families, but an ex-navy sailor as our captain and 16 strangers who paid us to join. From the youngest at 6, to the oldest at 41, we 30 were bound together in our escape. To get caught was to die.

At 5 am on November 11, we all made it to the boat undetected. But more dangerous journeys lay ahead. We set sail silently into the bay. It did not take long for the Việt Cộng guardsmen to spot our escape. Alarms sounded as they dispatched their ships. Gunfire followed soon after. Between the rapid blasts of gunfire and the monsoon season’s tumultuous waves, it seemed death awaited us whichever direction we steered. I wanted to go forward. Death by the sea was preferable to death at the hands of the Việt Cộng. When the monsoon waves got bigger, they retreated.

By our second day at sea, we were rationing banana peels to fight the hunger pangs. We grew weak, but there were graver dangers out at sea. Thai pirates often captured refugee boats in the night, taking what they could – be it our belongings or even our bodies. My mom shaved my and my sisters’ heads in hopes that we’d be mistaken for men. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I might die. By hunger, sexual assault, or the gun.

By the third day, we caught a glimpse of a large commercial shipping boat. We shot our flares. No response. Another day passed by. We were out of emergency guns, food, and gasoline. We counted 51 commercial and cruise ships pass us by. No rescue in sight. We floated aimlessly throughout the fourth day. We laid atop the boat in silence – too weak to move, too hopeless to talk.

On the fifth morning, I was startled by a large flare. A Holland cruise ship moved closer. I was in disbelief. People from their balconies waved and shouted “We’re coming!” I couldn’t comprehend until they threw life vests at us. The Ampsteldiep crew pulled us up using emergency boats and rope ladders. They fed us and offered more food than I’d seen in years. I was overwhelmed by the Dutch’s kindness.

After a few hours, the ship dropped us off at a US-operated refugee camp in Singapore, where we stayed for 3 ½ months. In mid-February of 1980, the organization gave us our first plane tickets to the US. As we settled into our new home and made our first meal, we finally heard “ăn cho no” again.

1979, Photo taken by Ampsteldiep crew members before taking our family onto their ship

 

2019 Learning Agreement

Dear students,

Wharton’s reputation rests on its mission of learning and academic excellence, and we are constantly striving to improve the classroom experience. A group of students, faculty, and administrators have jointly shaped a new Learning Agreement, a set of ideal standards for both students and faculty to create and enjoy an engaging classroom environment.

WGA students wrote the initial draft, and we have been circulating this with faculty, students, and administrators since then to create a collaborative, well-rounded set of standards. The last time Wharton crafted a Learning Agreement was 15 years ago, and it was time to calibrate it to the current classroom environment, and to emphasize that we need to hold each other accountable to these standards to benefit from Wharton’s education.

Several of you might recall the term concert rules. I think the concert rules are still visible in the Learning Agreement, but the term will phase out eventually. This new Learning Agreement is an improvement, as it speaks more specifically to aspects such as preparation and interaction, an inclusive learning environment for all students, and the focus on impactful real-world knowledge.

Thanks to all of you for your commitment to the classroom, to the WGA for supporting this initiative from day one, and to the many stakeholders wanting to help each other in the learning process. Without all of you, we could not create such a world-class MBA program.

Wishing you a great Fall semester, Stephan Dieckmann

 

Learning Agreement 2019

 

Student Standards

 

Classroom Conduct

·       Arrive on time, ready to begin, and minimize disruptions throughout the session.

·       Display your Wharton name tent to allow for a personalized classroom experience.

·       Turn off and put away your phone. If you must keep a phone on by reason of a personal emergency, you must inform the instructor before class begins.

·       Do not use your laptop or tablet unless for educational purposes as permitted by the instructor (e.g., notetaking, reading, or data analysis).

·       Respect the physical environment by maintaining classroom cleanliness.

 

Preparation and Interaction

·       Be prepared to engage fully in each session through your focused attention and active involvement; this is crucial to achieve positive learning outcomes for you and other students.

·       Encourage an inclusive learning environment and show respect for the point of view of others.

 

Teamwork

·       Contribute your fair share; free-riding can be a substantial distractor to your own learning and the learning of others.

·       Hold teammates and yourself accountable to team goals and assignments.

·       Be supportive and encouraging with your teammates.

·       Appreciate the diversity of knowledge, skills, and abilities within the team.

·       Be honest and transparent in your evaluation of teammates.

 

Ethics

·       Promote the growth of ethically responsible business leaders and adhere to the highest standards of honesty and academic integrity.

 

Instructor Standards

 

Classroom Conduct

·       Arrive on time, ready to begin, and end class on time.

·       Create a classroom experience that motivates learning through intriguing content directed towards useful applications and compelling discussions of relevant business issues and decisions.

·       Engage students in activities that promote the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content, cognizant of the balance of student-centered activities and presentation-style instruction.

·       Lead the class to foster a respectful and inclusive learning environment.

 

Syllabus

·       State the learning objectives for the course.

·       Explain how students are graded, provide due dates and times for assessments and deliverables, and articulate guidelines for collaborative work.

·       Identify required and recommended course materials.

·       List opportunities for office hours and availability outside of the classroom.

·       Make an updated syllabus available prior to the beginning of the course.

 

Student Support

·       Provide students with feedback on assessments, class participation, and deliverables to facilitate their growth and learning, including the distribution of results.

·       Communicate how students can improve if learning objectives are not met.

·       Commit to deadlines for grading, feedback, and submitting final grades.

·       Make course materials available in a timely manner to foster course preparation.

·       Respond to student requests and inquiries in a timely and respectful manner, and be available through posted office hours as well as by appointment.

Rugby – a hooligan’s game, played by gentlemen

The Hog slowly raised his head and surveyed the field with my bloodshot eyes. All did not seem well. He could see several other hogs lying on the ground, unresponsive, and others looked heavily dazed. The few who were still standing struggled for words. He had heard rugby was a rough sport, but this was beyond his wildest expectations. Somehow in this brutal game there had been no winners. In fact, for the first time all season, the mighty Wharton Wharthogs had ended the day without scoring. For a seventeenth consecutive year, Pub Golf remained undefeated.

Wharton Rugby Football Club’s first day of the pool play at the MBA Rugby World Cup in Danville, VA Saturday, April 13th, 2019. Photos by David Duncan Photography

Having learned some valuable lessons that night, the Hogs embarked on a Spring Tour back to their natural habitat – the plains of South Africa – where shark diving, a safari, and some lackluster off-field performances overshadowed a surprisingly competitive game of rugby. Next year will likely see them spread the gospel of US rugby deep into Argentina, where their bi-annual match against a local prison team makes “The Longest Yard” look like flag flootball.

Reinvigorated by their nostalgic pilgrimage to the savannah, the Hogs extended their long US winning streak by collecting both North American MBA trophies in Philly and Ausin dominant fashion. For the second year running, one team stood between the Wharthogs and MBA World Cup glory at Duke. While LBS narrowly came out on top in a tough final, the fact that most of them had played rugby before appeared to give them a slight edge.

The next priority is maintaining their ironclad grip on Hogfest; Wharton’s own MBA rugby tournament held on September 28th in Philly. Even more challenging than retaining the title is convincing HBS to find 15 blokes who can tolerate each other’s company long enough to travel together to Philadelphia. Given they couldn’t field a full team at the World Cup last year, we thought we would boost their recruiting efforts by setting aside a keg of O’Douls for them at Bonner’s this year. First round is on us, boys.

If you want to help break the World Cup drought, or if you just need a reason to drink late on Monday and Tuesday nights without judgement, join the Wharton Men’s Rugby Club. No rugby experience is required (in fact if you want to fit in, less experience is better). Open training sessions will be held for several weeks for those wanting to try it out. Alternatively, if you want to join a team who actually won at the MBA World Cup, join the Wilderbeests – the Women’s Rugby Club. For details, contact cleckie@wharton.upenn.edu, or speak to anyone you see on campus wearing the iconic Hog’s hat.